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15:25 on Friday
1 March 2002

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Local employers want flexible retirement ages

Leaders of Cambridgeshire companies have reacted cautiously to government proposals to abolish the rules on workers' retirement ages.

At present, employment contracts usually set a retirement age of 60 years for women and 65 for men. As part of plans to end the sex discrimination imposed by these different retirement ages the government wants to force companies to retain employees until they themselves decide to retire.

The Eastern Branch of the Institute of Directors - which represents nearly 1,000 company directors in Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough and surrounding towns and villages - says it can see both advantages and problems with abolishing contractual retirement ages.

Stephanie Smye, chairman of the Eastern Branch, said: "There can be many benefits to employers if people work beyond their normal retirement age. Many firms have flexible arrangements in place already. Companies can then retain employees with skills and experience, maintain stability in the workplace and reduce recruitment costs."

"The employees themselves may gain not just financially but also from the social and other benefits of continuing at work."

Miss Smye herself has remained at work as a director of Peterborough-based marketing and public relations consultancy Smye Holland Associates although she has passed 'official' retirement age, lately working on a part-time basis. She says the flexibility of these arrangements has helped both her and the company - but she does not believe she should have the right to dictate the age at which she will retire.

"Allowing the employee alone to make the decision on when he or she retires could be dangerous and irresponsible. One can think of many jobs - such as lorry drivers, doctors and those dealing with heavy machinery - where it could put the employees themselves or other people at risk. More typically, it may not be in the interests of the business for people to remain at work.

"The law should allow flexibility. Employers should be able to negotiate retirement ages with employees, allowing them to continue to use their skills and allowing employers to continue to benefit from them - but only for as long as both parties wish to do so."

March 2001




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